Twins' bullpen falters late in 11-10 loss to Cleveland Guardians

Max Kepler #26 of the Minnesota Twins leaps to catch the ball in the first inning of the game against the Cleveland Guardians at Target Field on June 22, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Twins have some bullpen issues to address if they plan on staying in contention in the American League Central Division.

Wednesday night, Twins’ relievers gave up leads of 5-1 and 10-7 in an 11-10 loss to the Cleveland Guardians in front of more than 25,000 fans at Target Field. The Guardians rallied for four runs in the ninth inning off Emilio Pagan and Griffin Jax to take a one-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central. Jharel Cotton also gave up three earned runs, all on home runs in the seventh, as Cleveland rallied from down 6-4 to take a 7-6 lead.

The Twins fall to 38-32, and are now one game behind the Guardians in the AL Central with the series finale Thursday at Target Field, and five more games in Cleveland next week.

It spoiled a two home run night for Carlos Correa, and Gio Urshela ending up a double short of hitting for the cycle. Urshela finished with three hits, three RBI and scored three runs. He hit a 3-run homer in the seventh to give the Twins a 10-7 lead, but it wouldn’t last. Rocco Baldelli said the team was "a little pissed off" after the loss.

"For a few minutes right now, it’s not a fun one, it’s not an easy one, the ups and downs over the course of a game like that, they do take a little something out of you. There’s no way around that. We’ve played two games in a row now like this that feel very unsatisfying and you leave kind of pissed off," Baldelli said.

Pagan and Jax couldn’t hold a three-run lead in the ninth, combining to allow four runs. That's after Pagan, who gave up a game-tying 2-run homer to Franmil Reyes on Tuesday, struck out the side in the eighth inning Wednesday.

Josh Naylor started the ninth inning rally with an RBI double to center off Pagan to get Cleveland within 10-8. Baldelli then reluctantly called for Jax. Oscar Gonzalez promptly blooped a two-run, game-tying single to left center, and Owen Miller gave the Guardians the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly off Jax, who was pitching for the third straight night.

Sonny Gray went four-plus innings for the Twins, allowing four runs, three earned, on eight hits while striking out four on 80 pitches. But Jharel Cotton, Pagan and Jax combined to allow seven runs on six hits over three innings of relief.

Correa crushed a solo homer in the first to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the first, then added a solo blast to center in the third for a 3-1 lead and the 11th multi-homer game of his career. Urshela had an infield hit in the second, tripled in the fourth and homered in the seventh.

The Guardians got within 5-4 after a three-run fifth inning after Austin Hedges had a lead-off homer. Cleveland then scored a pair of runs after Gray was late to cover first base on a ground ball, and Caleb Thielbar was called for a balk on pick-off throw to first base that got away from Alex Kirilloff.

Trailing 6-4 after a Max Kepler opposite field homer in the sixth, Cleveland rallied for three runs in the seventh to take a 7-6 lead. Amed Rosario homered off Cotton, and Oscar Gonzalez added a two-run blast.

"We have to get outs. Pitching in a major league bullpen is not an easy thing to do, but we’ve got to find a way to not give up a bunch of runs. We’ve just got to finish out some innings. I think we’re just hitting a skid with executing pitches," Baldelli said.

Kirilloff tied it with a two-out single in the seventh before Urshela’s three-run homer, setting up Cleveland’s ninth-inning rally.

The Twins scored 10 runs on 12 hits Wednesday night, but it wasn't enough offense as Cleveland had 11 runs on 15 hits, with seven hits and seven runs after Gray's exit.

For the first time in two months, the Twins are officially in second place in the AL Central.

"There’s no one in our clubhouse right now that’s not pissed off right now. We should be a little pissed off based on the way we’ve played the last couple of days and just the inability to get the job done," Baldelli said.

"I think we've got 100 games left. If you're going to scoreboard watch now, good luck," Gray said. "It would just be nice to get back on a little bit of a roll and play good baseball and put it all back together.""